A. All parties who have not submitted a parenting plan to the court within 90 days of filing an action involving child custody shall be required to meet and participate in mediation services or the specialized alternative dispute resolution process to complete a parenting plan or visitation schedule, including child custody, visitation, grandparent visitation, and any other issues relating to the children that may be susceptible to mediation or the specialized alternative dispute resolution process. No trial date will be scheduled until attendance at the required mediation to resolve custody and/or visitation issues has been attempted or the specialized alternative dispute resolution process has been attempted, provided, however, that failure or refusal to participate by a party shall not delay entry of a final judgment by more than 6 months. It is further provided that, notwithstanding the language in this paragraph, domestic-violence issues may, upon consideration by the trial court, disqualify the parties from mediation.
For good cause shown and (1) when both parents agree and such parental agreement is bona fide and not asserted to avoid the purposes of the Parenting Act, or (2) when mediation or specialized alternative dispute resolution is not possible without undue delay or hardship to either parent, the mediation or specialized alternative dispute resolution requirement may be waived by the court. In such a case where waiver of the mediation or specialized alternative dispute resolution is sought, the court shall hold an evidentiary hearing and the burden of proof for the party or parties seeking waiver is by clear and convincing evidence.
B. A party may not terminate mediation until after an individual initial screening session and one mediation or specialized alternative dispute resolution session are held unless said mediation is waived as provided herein.
C. All parties not having agreed to a parenting plan within 90 days of filing an action involving child custody, and not having agreed to a specific mediator, shall contact the bailiff of the assigned Judge, and shall be assigned the next mediator from a rotating list of approved mediators. However, parties or counsel are required to notify the Judge assigned to the case, by notifying his or her bailiff, of any request for delay in assignment of a mediator if the parties or counsel are attempting to negotiate a Parenting Plan agreement.
D. At any time in the proceedings, the court may refer a case to mediation or the specialized alternative dispute resolution process in order to attempt resolution of any relevant matter. The court may state a date for the case to return to court, and the court shall not grant an extension of such date except for good cause shown unless said mediation is waived as provided herein.
E. The District Court Clerk of each county shall maintain a list of mediators approved by the Mediation Committee of the District Court. These mediators must meet State of Nebraska (or equivalent) standards for training in order to qualify. The following requirements apply to all participating mediators:
(1) Each participating mediator shall comply with Nebraska Law on mediation, including the Nebraska Parenting Act. Additionally, any mediator qualifying as a specialized mediator, who conducts specialized alternative dispute resolution, shall meet all requirements set forth by Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-2938(3), or any amendment thereto. All mediators and/or specialized mediator must be willing to agree to the court requirements for participation, and each mediator will be asked to sign a statement indicating acknowledgment and acceptance of the requirements.
(2) Court-approved mediators will determine their own fees and will provide a copy of their fee schedule to the Mediation Committee of the District Court. In order to be on the list of court-approved mediators, a mediator must agree to use a sliding-scale fee of $25 to $75 per person per hour, determined on the basis of what each party is able to pay. Court-approved mediators must also agree to take pro bono cases on an "as needed" basis. The Court will determine the need for such pro bono services, so that the burden of these cases is equitably distributed among the participating mediators.
F. Prior to commencing an initial mediation session, the mediator shall provide an initial individual screening session with each party to assess the presence of child abuse or neglect, unresolved parental conflict, domestic intimate-partner abuse, other forms of intimidation or coercion, or a party's inability to negotiate freely and make informed decisions. If any of these conditions exists, the mediator shall proceed with the specialized alternative dispute resolution process that addresses safety measures for the parties, if the mediator is on the approved specialized list of an approved mediation center or approved list of the State of Nebraska, or shall refer the parties to a mediator who is so qualified.
G. In conjunction with setting a case for an uncontested final hearing, the parties shall file a pleading, and provide a copy to the assigned Judge, indicating all issues have been resolved and a parenting plan, which has been reduced to writing, has been agreed to by the parties. If the parties have not agreed to any of the following: parenting plan, child support calculations, or a property settlement agreement, they should file a certificate of readiness with the Court and indicate within the certificate of readiness whether the parties have complied with the mediation requirements of this rule.
H. The Mediation Committee of the District Court may make such other operating rules as may be needed to facilitate the beginning and continuation of this mediation program.
I. The Mediation Committee of the District Court will be a standing committee of the district court and will be composed of the four district court judges and such other persons as the committee deems necessary.
Rule 2-10 approved June 3, 2010.